We investigated the possible involvement of reactive oxygen radical-related processes in chronic (12-wk) diabetes induced in rats by streptozocin (STZ). Diabetes was associated with significantly increased activities of catalase (CAT), glutathione reductase (GSSG-RD), and CuZn-superoxide dismutase (SOD) in the pancreas and of CAT and GSSG-RD in the heart. On the other hand, the liver of diabetic rats showed a generalized decrease in CAT, glutathione peroxidase (GSH-PX), and SOD as well as in the levels of reduced glutathione (GSH). Diabetic kidney also showed decreases in CAT and SOD, but the activities of GSH-PX were increased. Insulin treatment (9–12 U/kg body wt) that was started after 8 wk of diabetes and continued for 4 wk reversed all of the foregoing alterations in tissue antioxidant status.

Our results suggest the presence of increased oxidative stress in uncontrolled diabetes as manifested by the marked alterations in tissue antioxidant enzyme activities, the magnitude of which increased with the degree of emaciation. The complex patterns of changes observed in the various tissues examined are believed to be the result of compensatory increases in enzyme activities (usually involving enzymes whose activity in control tissues is low) and direct inhibitory effects, possibly resulting from an increased tissue-oxidant activity. Our findings support the view that tissue antioxidant status may be an important factor in the etiology of diabetes and its complications.

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